How to Talk to Teens About Underage Drinking

Last Updated on May 1, 2019 by Diane Hoffmaster

Parenting teenagers is hard work.  You have to find a balance between being their parent and having them not hate you.  Figuring out how to talk to teens about underage drinking is tough.  However, it is one aspect of parenting teens that may very well save their life. 

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Parenting Teens is Tough But We’ll Survive!

Children are naturally inquisitive creatures.  They ask an assortment of questions ranging from ‘why is the sky blue’ to ‘why do farts smell’.  Yes, I have a boy…..I’m not sure girls ask as many questions about bodily functions as boys do! 

As kids get older, they start asking harder questions.  ‘How are babies made’ and ‘Why do the other kids pick on me?’.  As parents, we need to learn to give educated, thoughtful and meaningful answers to the questions our children ask us. 

More Advice About Parenting Teenagers

There are some questions that teens will never ask.  THOSE are the questions that we must address before the situation arises where they need the answers. Underage drinking is a topic that few teens will approach their parents about.  However, I encourage you to approach the topic of underage drinking with them, regardless of whether or not they ask about it.

teenage girls drinking at a party

How Big a Problem is Underage Drinking?

Underage drinking is a serious public health problem in the United States. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse, alcohol is the most widely used substance of abuse among America’s youth. Drinking by young people creates some enormous health and safety risks. In addition, the consequences of underage drinking can affect everyone— regardless of age or drinking status.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States. That is a terrifying statistic.  And means that parents really need to learn how to talk to teens about underage drinking.  Before they end up killing themselves, or someone else. Binge drinking, especially by people under the legal drinking age, is a recipe for disaster. 

Two young men get drunk at home

How to Talk to Teens About Underage Drinking

Talking about underage drinking with your teens can be awkward so we put it off.  That could very well lead to tragic consequences.  Underage drinking is bad for their bodies, as well as teen mental health.  If you would like to talk to your teens about underage drinking, I am sharing a few tips that might come in hand.

Find the right time to talk to your teens:

I suggest you pick a time when you don’t have to look them in the eye.  This may seem like odd advice but as the parent of two teens, I can tell you that they tend to be much more open when mom isn’t staring right at them.  Talk to them in the car or while you are stirring a pot on the stove.

Try not to be confrontational about alcohol: 

Do not interrogate them about their experiences with underage drinking.  Demanding to know whether or not they have already tried alcohol will not get them to open up to you.  Ask open ended questions and ask them their opinions.  Teens are not children any more, even though they aren’t quite adults yet, either.  Discuss underage drinking without being accusatory. 

 Conversation tips for Parents about Underage Drinking

Keep an open mind and try not to judge:

This may not be a popular opinion but try not to paint alcohol itself as ‘bad’ or something they should never in their lives try.  Regardless of your own feelings about alcohol, keep in mind that they are unique individuals and will have to form their own opinions. 

Explain to them why UNDERAGE drinking is wrong, illegal, and not a good life choice.  Tell them your personal feelings about alcohol in general.  But, forcing teens to accept your own ideals and beliefs will most likely lead to problems. 

Be honest about your own underage drinking: 

While you don’t need to go into details about your own teenage shenanigans, be honest with your teens about your own experiences with underage drinking.  If you lie and they find out, you will have lost ALL credibility with your teen!  Gloss over the details but give them an honest account of your teen years when it comes to alcohol.

glass of wine

Set a good example for your teenagers: 

If you do choose to partake in alcohol as an adult, make sure you do it responsibly.  My husband and I often finish out our day with a glass of wine.  I don’t hide this from my children.  We discuss alcohol with the teens, it’s effect on the body, the effects of teenage drinking on the brain,  and how to drink responsibly.  If your child sees YOU drinking and driving, they won’t understand why it is dangerous!

Keep the lines of communication open:

Check out my post about keeping the lines of communication open with your teens.  It is important that you touch base with each other regularly about ALL topics, not just underage drinking!  They may not always WANT to talk to us, but teenagers still need our guidance and advice, even if they hate to admit it!

There is no magic way to make the underage drinking conversation easier.  It is one aspect of parenting teens that needs to be dealt with rather than enjoyed.  Set a time to sit down and read a few articles about talking to teenagers about alcohol.  Then, start to approach your teenager about the topic logically and calmly.  Don’t wait for an underage drinking problem to arise before you make time to talk.  Alcohol use in teens  isn’t an easy topic to discuss with them, however,  NOT discussing it may lead to horrible consequences!

 Have you talked to YOUR teens about underage drinking?  Now’s Your Chance!

(NOTE: Content updated from previous publish date)

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  1. Parenting is the greatest influence against underage drinking.
  2. heather s says
    It is important to talk to your kids and coach them on the subject

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